I’m already eagerly anticipating breakfast tomorrow? Why? Because Kabuki and I have decided to fast today. Jesus, what were we thinking. 🙂
I do really like the benefits of a fast but they freak me out too. Since waking up two hours ago I’ve “forgotten” I’m fasting about 20 times. Not consciously forgot but subconsciously started to think about food and start to look forward to it with no clarity of the distance between myself and my next meal. Then suddenly the reality comes crashing in … no food today! Panic. Disappointment. Acceptance. All within about 2 seconds.
Well it’s now February and my gluten, alcohol, dairy-free diet with low carbs is now behind me. As a parting gift I’ve moved from 17.5% body fat down to 14.9%. Pretty psyched about that and it’s gotten me believing again that I’ll be able to hit 12% by July.
The BBC have just aired a special on “Fat versus Sugar” to address the growing dietary debate between which of these two macro-nutrients are least-good for us. Horizon is generally a well run show and this particular episode seemed ok but I felt it still missed some important things.
My thoughts really boil down to three main points:
Individual testing is key. I think the underpinning of running a “self-experiment” on the two brothers was a good approach (of course as QS‘er that would be my point of view); sadly the biggest benefit to this approach is that people are quite unique in how they respond to stimulus. While self-experimentation may not be as “quantitative” as we all like, the commercial effectiveness of large double blind population studies is dubious in many cases for “population based data” and completely ineffective at understanding individual response. There is no substitute for individual testing and I wish the show could have identified this point more clearly (well mentioned it at all actually).
You can’t aggregate individual results. The above point, however, is made worse by a common mistake that the show makes … one individuals response (or two people’s in this case) is in NO WAY representative of the population. It’s obvious when you think about it but yet people consistently rely on overly small sample sizes to carry validity. You might be thinking … didn’t he just contradict himself? Well no. What I’m saying is that an individual’s response does not make a good predictor of the overall population. However, an individual’s response DOES make a good predictor for that individual. For instance, my numbers for a month long test of a LCHF diet are not remotely similar to the subject in the show. Does that mean this is all a waste of time? That the numbers must be wrong? No. It means that our bodies are extremely complex systems and it should be expected that a relatively controlled input would produce a large standard deviation of results. The variance is a little known but undisputed fact and one that starts to highlight the way in which individual testing is highly complimentary to formal studies which only talk to population data.
The “do nothing” message. With all good intentions, I think the experts — with notable exception to Robert Lustig — point subtly to a message that everyone should just “keep things in balance”, “no one thing makes a big difference” (with the possibly exception of the accepted villains of trans-fat and now the sugar/fat duo), and trying new things “can be dangerous”. These messages help to reinforce the status quo and ensure that new ideas are not explored with the vigour that they richly deserve. I’m not suggesting people should be taking risks with their health, I’m suggesting that for some individuals there are some transformative changes that they could make with very little (no?) sacrifice to their lifestyle. Let’s be clear, the reason that LCHF diets are gaining a cult following is that — at least in some important ways — they are producing results that people are excited about. In some cases these results are stunning, for other people they may not be, in yet others the results may be negative. It is worth finding out what the results are for you, it is an easy experiment, it is risk free, and it might lead to a much healthier you.
In the end, I don’t rate this episode of Horizons very highly because of the above points but I’m still glad that the topic of diet’s role in health is continuing to gain in credibility, interest, and coverage as I think its going to play an increasingly important role in 21st century health.
I’ve really been enjoying the benefits of my LCHF (Low Carb, High Fat) diet but one thing I’ve not really tested yet is how I perform from an endurance aspect on this type of fuel. Kabuki went for an intense personal trainer session a few days back and reported a more limited energy response which got me thinking about this. My first test of this was yesterday’s 9 mile run which, while not a very long run, it is longer than I’ve been running over the holiday season and for that reason its a little bit unbalanced in terms of having a clear baseline to compare against. Still, my clear qualitative feeling was that I was “missing an extra gear” and my pace definitely seemed to substantiate that (I started at around 8:30min/mi which is fairly typical but quickly fell to 9min/mi and the last 3-4 miles were over 10min/miles).
I remember reading somewhere that it takes the body a period of transition to fully adjust to the ketone-based energy system which I’m not consistently in and maybe I’m still in this transition to some degree. However, I also seem to remember people suggesting that endurance can take a little bit of a hit on this diet (versus anaerobic which was unaffected). In any event, I’m short on knowledge at the moment so it’s research time … which to me means one part reading on the internet and one part self-experimentation. Now it’s off to the proverbial lab for some tests. :^)
I’ve paid attention to my lipid markers (aka, cholesterol) for a long time as I’ve often peaked too high but I’ve always been able to make small lifestyle changes to bring it back down to good enough on LDL (aka, “bad cholesterol”) and I have my Triglycerides down to healthy levels for a year or two. It’s with this background that I’ve watched in amazement at the dramatic changes in what these markers are meant to mean and what is considered good. Admittedly I don’t think everyone’s on board with the new thinking but it does feel like a very strong case that we’ve been misreading the numbers for years. At the very least I think everyone should be aware that there are some VERY alternative interpretations of Lipid levels.
Here’s my quick summary of the current thinking:
Triglycerides are bad (no change from before); the good news is they are very sensitive to diet (no need to throw Statins at them)
HDL is good … the only change is that there’s effectively no “ceiling” to how high you can or should go (within reason)
LDL is largely good! Huh? Turns out the “bad cholesterol” got a bad rap but now has a better PR agent. In a large majority of cases LDL is good, the exception is high density LDL particles. These are not called out separately in most reports but typically if you have low triglycerides then you likely don’t have any of these bad guys lurking around.
Total Cholesterol is completely worthless. It just means nothing. Pretend you never saw it
There’s lots more to be aware; this is a quick summary only. Two books I found useful recently are: